Historical Highlights Of Bath, England
Like all European cities, Bath is steeped in history. Entire books have been written about the great city, so it should come as no surprise that this post will hardly scrape the surface. However, these are my top five (fun!) takeaways that I learned about Bath’s history during my visit:
I’m sure you’re wondering how, exactly, people originally realized the healing powers of Bath’s waters, and the answer is simple: why, pigs of course! Legend has it that back in 863 BC Bladud contracted leprosy from a stay in Athens (oh, those Greeks!). Upon returning home, he was embarrassed, realizing an imperfect prince could never rule the kingdom. He left the palace in disguise to take a job as a swineherd.
Bladud’s poor piggies also contracted his disease, but were miraculously cured upon rolling around in the hot mud in Bath’s natural springs! Bladud instantly jumped in with them, bathing in the murky mess, and, you guessed it! He, too, was cured!
Returning home, he went on to become King, and founded the City of Bath that we know and love today! The hot springs you will find in Bath are the only natural hot springs in Britain. Pretty powerful, indeed.
Boarded Up Windows
Making your way around Bath, you will see many homes with bricked or stoned-in windows. This is because of a little something known back in the day (we’re talking 1700’s) known as “window tax”. If you had more than six windows in your home (implying that you were wealthy), you were charged extra taxes. In order to avoid this, people chose to simply replace the glass with brick or stone, and voila! Windows, be gone!
The Tea Key
During the 18th Century, tea was considered the upmost luxury. It was imported and thus very expensive. Rather than keeping it out and available (as one would think, given how much the English love their tea) it was kept under lock and key in a special caddy. The mistress of the house would wear the key around her neck so she could dole it out when needed, rather than giving the entire household, servants included, free access.
Shops Meet Bridge
The gorgeous Pulteney Bridge is unique in that it, along with the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, Italy, are the only historic 18th century bridges in the world with shops built into the original design. Not that I’m partial to Bath or anything, but I’d definitely say Pulteney trumps Ponte any day, rain or shine, and is well worth the visit to see for yourself.
The Bath Diet
Visiting the Number One Royal Crescent was one of my favorite parts of the trip, mostly due to the knowledgable (not to mention funny!) guides in full period-attire that were there to answer questions and tell stories of the 18th Century. One such guide shared with us the secret of the elite’s diet during this period: sugar, meat, and alcohol. I loved that the residents paid no mind to the pesky little food triangle we have today, living in pure pleasure…well, minus the gout.
By: Jessica Tiare Bowen
A very special thank you to the wonderful folks at Visit Bath!